Wednesday, November 3, 2010


fall 041
Next to my TOILET in our summer home in Refuge Cove is a painted mask of a GOAT. The background for this west coast Native piece is weathered barn wood.   I love northwest art and when I was hanging my eclectic collection around the house when we first moved in, the GOAT piece was the last to go up. Despite its sentimental value, I never found another spot for it and it resides in my bathroom to this day.
When “masks” was introduced as the October assignment for our quilt journals, I knew what I would do.  I took a photo of the GOAT and cropped it so that when I printed it out onto 8½”x11”paper, the size was perfect for transferring onto my fabric. I chose a hand-dyed piece that had a similar weathered barn wood look for the background, and simply put them both up to a window on a sunny day and proceeded to draw the outline of the mask details with a black “sharpie”.  Now all I had to do was color in the lines with my new Shiva Paintsticks. Finally, I sliced it with my rotary to represent the barn boards and placed it on a backdrop of black cotton. My current living situation is such that handwork is a better option than machine work, so that was my choice for finishing off my piece, along with a few buttons for eyes and teeth.
At the bottom of the original piece, the word GOAT is written in white on the left, and the artist’s initials are on the right. I found I didn’t plan for that, and was stuck with a tiny slice of black background on the border in which to squeeze my altered words.
So why is this GOAT so sentimental? I purchased this piece as a birthday gift for my dad about 30 years ago. I was working at Mt. Rainier National Park, a place he too worked as a young person, and found it among the NW art treasures in the gift shop. I knew my dad would like it as he too was a lover of west coast Native art. He chose his patio as the display point for the GOAT. When he passed away 15 years ago, I was happy to receive it back into my life as a special reminder of my dad.
As adolescents, my brothers and I secretly called him “Art the fart”, or a casual friend might have referred to him as “Arturo”.  His undecipherable, scrawly signature somehow displayed “ABC Jr.” But most of the time I just called him “dad”.
Born in 1915 to Gertrude and Kim, he was the oldest of five boys and one girl, all raised in an ultra-Catholic home in Tacoma, Washington. He lived through the depression, avoided WWII with his bad eyes, and spent his career as an insurance broker in his father’s business. He married my mother, Mary, and together they raised four children in the Catholic tradition. But my father had a conflicted inner world, perhaps as a result of pressures from being the first born, and slowly grew distant from my mother, divorcing after 20+ years. He had two other marriages (the last which was happy through his final days) and battled with alcohol (in the closet). He loved traveling and was keen on accompanying his travel-agent wife on the many trips she organized around the world. He always stayed close with his siblings and their families. Multiple cancers got him in the end and he died at home at the age of 78.
But my memories are unique. I remember his large record collection and loved to hear his newest acquisition. He taught tennis to the neighborhood kids at a local court, loved gardening, and wore flashy clothes. After my parents divorced, I was estranged from him for about 4 years, probably through anger and confusion, but we later reconciled and maintained a strong relationship from then on. He was always my supporter, there for me through thick and thin, without questions. I’ll never forget his words to me as I was floundering through life in my early 20’s: “no matter what you choose to do in life, I’ll always love you”. Those words gave me the freedom to live my life according to my own personal values, and to this day I try to extend that message to my own son.
So my altered words at the bottom of this piece read “my old goat…ABC Jr.”
And first on my list is to move the original OUT of the bathroom to a place of much greater honor.

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